You'll Never Sell Anything Without Ringing Bells

Last Updated Dec 7, 2010 4:37 PM EST

Yesterday as I was leaving a grocery store, I noticed a bake sale in progress. I'm a total sucker for youngsters selling things because I empathize with them, so I walked over to take a look.

I also can't resist coaching young entrepreneurs to help them raise more money. I asked my usual question: "Why should I buy your cookies?" (My own kids have heard this so many times they now roll their eyes at me.) One of the girls looked me straight in the eye and without hesitation responded, "Because they were made with love and they're delicious!"

WOW! Good answer. I bought two cakes, all the cookies, and three trays of cupcakes. Total bill: $30 -- a record sale.

Normally when I ask that key question, kids respond by telling me how they will benefit if I buy their products. They'll tell me how important their glee club is and how they need money to compete at Nationals. Nothing about what I get out of the deal.

I told the girl why her answer was so good and why it sparked the sale. She became a heroine to her girlfriends/sales associates.

I learned my first sales lesson when I was about her age. These were my Little League days when I had to sell candy to raise funds for my team, Gilleo Music. I lived in a 3-story apartment building and would walk through the entire building with my mother -- until it came time to ring the doorbell.

She'd hide behind the corner and let me ring the bell myself and make my pitch. I knew nothing about selling but learned a lot about courage. It takes courage to sell in spite of repeated rejection, but my mother taught me I'd never sell anything without ringing the bell. Having a reassuring mentor sure helps.

How many people do not accomplish anything because they're just afraid to take that first step? Does the possibility of rejection paralyze you? In my experience, success comes from simply doing things that others are afraid to do (sometimes they're just lazy).

I suppose my mom was my first sales coach. She showed me that in order to meet my goal, I had to take some chances. How do you lead your employees? Do you allow them to make some mistakes, and encourage them along the way? Too many managers and leaders I know lack patience when giving instructions and do not allow people to find out for themselves the best paths to success.

I'm glad my mom made me ring all those bells. What early childhood experiences shaped your ability to perform your job?

Photo courtesy of by IrishFireside

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    Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of, the industry leader in online window blinds sales. He is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His company was named Best Place to Work in Houston, won the American Marketing Association's Marketer of the Year, and Steinfeld was named by the Houston Chronicle as Houston's top CEO in the under-150 employee category for the last 2 years.